Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards often jokes that Jack Johnson could play the entire game, but it became a bit more serious when they lost four top-six defensemen in less than a week.
The injury troubles began in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 29 when both Nikita Nikitin and Adrian Aucoin left the game early and did not return. Then it was James Wisniewski's scary collision with the end boards last weekend and a practice injury for John Moore, leading to several call-ups from the Springfield Falcons.
Nick Holden, Tim Erixon, Cody Goloubef, and David Savard make up the top four defense for first-place Springfield, which has managed to keep chugging along despite injuries and recalls. Those players are now playing on NHL ice for the Blue Jackets and filling in while the club hopes to see some injuries begin to heal.
Johnson played over 34 minutes in games against Detroit and Los Angeles but will likely see less tonight when Nikitin returns to the lineup, which Richards said is a huge lift to a defense corps that's inexperienced and has had to shoulder a lot of responsibility.
"Nikitin going back in on the back end will be a big help for us," Richards said. "He's a guy with some poise and can play in every situation that can handle the puck and make a good first pass. Hopefully we don't have to spend as much time in our own zone and can get the puck off his stick and on to somebody else's stick and in the right place."Read the full story on Nikitin's return inside this blog post.
The Blue Jackets are set to take on the Calgary Flames tonight at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m. Both teams are searching to establish some consistency and earn wins as the 10-game benchmark approaches and passes. See what some of the main storylines were from the media presser after the morning skate:
Nikita Nikitin is back in the line-up for tonight’s game after missing three games due to an upper body injury sustained in the game against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 29.
Head coach Todd Richards said having Nikitin back will add poise and experience at the point and help the Blue Jackets spend less time in the defensive zone.
Here is a glimpse of what Richards had to say about Nikitin:
“Nikitin going back in on the back end will be a big help for us.”
“[He’s] a guy with some poise and can play in every situation, a guy who can handle the puck and make a good first pass.”
“It gets Nikitin and Tyutin back together. There’s a comfort level with both of those guys when they’re playing together.”
Read more about Nikitin’s return and more of tonight's storylines inside this blog post.
KICKING IT OFF: Good morning and happy game day! We're back at Nationwide Arena and the Blue Jackets are getting set to take on the Calgary Flames later on this evening. It's a big game for both teams, too; the Flames are coming off a win in Detroit two nights ago and looking to get headed in the right direction after a slow start, and the Blue Jackets are looking to level their record on this six-game home stand.
We don't yet know the identity of the Blue Jackets' starting goaltender tonight, but we do know Leland Irving will be between the pipes for Calgary. Miikka Kiprusoff is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury suffered in Detroit, and he's out for this game. The Flames signed Danny Taylor, a one-time Springfield Falcon, to a one-year deal yesterday to serve as Irving's backup while Kiprusoff recovers.
Stay tuned to the BlueJackets.com game day blog for all the latest news, photos and player interviews from today's morning skate!
In four seasons as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Admirals, the top farm club of the Nashville Predators, Todd Richards had the chance to coach some of the organization's best prospects and help them grow into NHL players.
The list is a long one, too: Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Martin Erat, David Legwand and others suited up for the Admirals during Richards' time there, and it wasn't just a collection of top prospects -- it was a very successful hockey team. So when the Blue Jackets assigned Ryan Johansen to the Springfield Falcons this morning, there were historical footnotes for Richards to reference in his own career.
That Admirals team was a powerhouse, winning two West Division titles, making two appearances in the Calder Cup Final and winning the 2004 Calder Cup championship during Richards' four years there, and he's seen several players go through what Johansen is right now.
He needs to re-discover his game, Richards said, and the only reason he was assigned today is because of his play.
"I wasn’t sure if he was going to start the year here," Richards said. "He earned the right to be here, based on his play for the six days of camp and how he started the year. To me, there was a peak and I think it was in Colorado, and since then his game has been going downhill."Read the rest of this story inside the blog post.
The Blue Jackets will not be without one of their most reliable forwards tomorrow night against Calgary.
Brandon Dubinsky, who received a major penalty for boarding as well as a game misconduct during last night's game vs. Los Angeles, was assessed a $10,000 fine by the NHL's Department of Player Safety this afternoon. Dubinsky took part in a hearing with league discipline chief Brendan Shanahan in regard to his hit on Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.
He is eligible to play tomorrow when the Blue Jackets host the Flames at Nationwide Arena.
At the 11:29 mark of the second period in Tuesday's game, Dubinsky and Scuderi chased down a loose puck in the Los Angeles end of the ice. Dubinsky was in on the forecheck and caught Scuderi with a hit that got him ejected from the game. Scuderi was down on the ice momentarily, but made it to the bench and was able to continue in the game. Kings center Mike Richards then instigated a fight with Dubinsky that earned two penalties, as well.
Prior to last night's incident (and now after), Dubinsky has never been suspended by the NHL and he said the major penalty was his first non-fighting major in his NHL career.Continue reading the full story inside this blog post.
There have only been two suspensions handed down by the NHL's Department of Player Safety in this truncated season, but the Blue Jackets hope they're not staring down at the third.
At the 11:29 mark of the second period last night against Los Angeles, Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky chased a loose puck into the right wing corner along with Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi. Dubinsky finished a hard check that appeared to catch Scuderi in the head, and was assessed a five minute boarding major on the play as well as a game misconduct.
Immediately following the hit, Kings center Mike Richards instigated a fight with Dubinsky and negated most of what would have been a lengthy power play for Los Angeles. Scuderi was down on the ice momentarily, but eventually made it to the bench and was able to finish the game.
As with all boarding majors and game misconducts, the Dubinsky hit is likely to be reviewed by NHL head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan -- if it has not been already. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards did not want to comment on the play or the penalty, but accepted the penalties assessed on the play.Read the full story inside this blog post.
I think Todd Richards summed it up well: "We lost our game."
He's referring to the response after what was an ideal first period from the Blue Jackets, in which they forechecked hard, forced the Los Angeles Kings to turn pucks over, and put a ton of pressure on goaltender Jonathan Quick. They did what they had to do against a struggling team, but the Kings are also a proud team that's a few months removed from a Stanley Cup championship.
The Kings found their game, and were the better club in the final 40 minutes tonight.
Anze Kopitar's backhander was probably one that Steve Mason would like to have back, but goaltending was not the Blue Jackets' ailment. They failed to carry any momentum from the first period to the second, and got back on their heels when the Kings brought a feverish charge in the meat of the game. At one point, Los Angeles held the Blue Jackets to one shot on goal in a 20-plus minute span, and that's just not good enough especially when playing from behind.
The game wasn't without some drama, and that's almost to be expected nowadays when the Kings and Blue Jackets get together.
Read the full breakdown of tonight's game inside this blog post.
Consistency amidst change. Victory amidst adversity.
This challenge is what the Blue Jackets will be battling for tonight at Nationwide Arena as they take on the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
Before the season even started, coach Todd Richards stressed the importance of the organization's depth at the NHL level and beyond. With recent injuries to core players such as James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin, and Cam Atkinson, this is what he meant when he said they would need everyone in order to win.
“Injuries are going to become a factor, and right now they’re a factor,” Richards said after the morning skate today.
Defensemen Cody Goloubef and Nick Holden are among the newest additions to the Blue Jackets roster after the team placed Nikitin and Adrian Aucoin on injured reserve in the last 48 hours. They join Tim Erixon as the most recent players recalled from the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.
The transition from the AHL to the NHL can be a challenge, but Richards said the adjustment has been easier for the new players because of the consistencies in the coaching philosophies and systems that the Blue Jackets have established with Falcons.Read the rest of this story by clicking inside the blog post.
The Blue Jackets got bit hard by the injury bug in a short time frame, and now they're slowly beginning to recover.
Matt Calvert, who suffered an upper body injury in a win over the Dallas Stars last week, has skated the past two days in practice and will return to the lineup tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards confirmed the move after today's morning skate at Nationwide Arena, and also said Jonathan Audy-Marchessault has been reassigned to the Springfield Falcons.
Calvert was one of the Falcons' most consistent forwards this season and earned a call to Blue Jackets training camp, and started the season on the fourth line before moving his way up the lineup. He's expected to play on the left side of a line with Ryan Johansen and Vinny Prospal tonight against the Kings, a spot that was previously occupied by Audy-Marchessault.
In two games with the Blue Jackets (his first two NHL appearances), Audy-Marchessault did not register a point and was a -1, averaging a little over 10 minutes in ice time per contest. At the time of his recall to the NHL, "JAM" was the third-leading scorer in the entire AHL and the top scorer that was currently playing in the league. Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle, the AHL's top point-getters, rejoined the Edmonton Oilers once the NHL lockout ended.Read the full story on Calvert's return inside this blog post.
Good morning and happy game day, everyone! The Blue Jackets, fresh off an exciting 4-2 win here at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night, are back on home ice tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. These two clubs were locked in some emotional games last year, especially after Jack Johnson joined the Blue Jackets in a trade with the Kings.
Johnson scored the game winner in his first game against his former team, and you can check out the video at the top of the page.
The Kings, as you'll recall, caught fire in the second half of the season under coach Darryl Sutter and went on to win the Stanley Cup. They return largely the same team that won the Cup, but due to some injuries on defense and starting the year without Anze Kopitar, the Kings have struggled to a 2-3-2 mark out of the gate.
On the other hand, Columbus played one of its best games of the season against the Red Wings, establishing a tenacious forecheck and making Detroit pay for its mistakes.
We'll have all the latest news, updates and player interviews from today's morning skate which begins in about 25 minutes. Be sure to check back here often (or just keep refreshing the page, which is way easier) to get the latest from Nationwide Arena.